Coronavirus Tidbits #169 12/5/21

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Announcements: First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I’m getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don’t be shy about that.

News 

Poll: Americans worried about contracting COVID, missing family and procuring and affording gifts

According to a new poll, Americans are five times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases (41% to 7%) during the holidays. This year, top areas of concern are contracting COVID-19 during gatherings (38%), and finding (40%) and affording (46%) gifts. The unvaccinated are less worried than the vaccinated about contracting COVID-19 (28% to 43%). Additionally, nearly half of adults (47%) are anxious about missing family members around the holidays.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-poll-americans-covid-family-gifts.html?

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Worth a read: In the wrong hands, vaccination statistics can prove deadly. Simpson’s Paradox shows why

There has been much discussion of late about data published on 1 November, 2021, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is titled “Deaths involving COVID-19 by vaccination status, England: deaths occurring between 2 January and 24 September 2021.”

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-wrong-vaccination-statistics-deadly-simpson.html?

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Omicron News:

Quick summary:

The omicron variant has a lot more mutations in the spike protein

It will take at least 2 weeks to know much more:

Virus neutralization assays take about 5 days. This assessment will be the fastest way to acquire experimental evidence to speculate if vaccination and previous infection will protect against infection.

So is there a drop in neutralizing antibodies? But we have other antibodies and T-cells that may also provide some protection.

Many experts believe our current levels of immunity should generally protect vaccinated people from severe illness or death even in the face of Omicron, though perhaps they will be more susceptible to infection and mild illness.”

immune evasion in terms of antibodies is the clearest prediction: this looks like it could cause more breakthrough infections. 

“A study published yesterday as a preprint suggests Omicron is causing more infections in people who have recovered from an earlier bout with the virus, one sign that the new variant is able to escape at least some of the immune system’s defenses. “This does not bode well for vaccine-induced immunity,” says virologist Florian Krammer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.”

Omicron (B.1.1.529) is at least three times more likely to cause reinfection than previous variants, based on a pre-print (not peer-reviewed):https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.11.21266068…

“Omicron is probably the fastest-spreading variant that South Africa has ever seen,” said Tulio de Oliveira, a public health professor. Will it outcompete Delta?

So a key question now is whether it will be more or less severe than Delta. So far, most cases are asymptomatic or mild. But we don’t know how many long Covid cases will result from these.

In the meanwhile, we are continuing to see another needless spike in Delta cases, with hospitals overrun with unvaccinated people.

WHO says boosters may prevent severe disease with Omicron.

Get your boosters now so you will have good titer. – They also protect against Delta, which is circulating now in increasing numbers.

We may not need a variant specific vax and, even if we do, we would not have a new vaccine available for at least 4 months.

Editorial comment: The travel ban is not only security theater but is counterproductive, sending a loud message that countries should not be forthcoming if they recognize a new variant. We should be applauding the S. African scientists for their quickly recognizing and reporting the discovery, rather than punishing their country.

Also, unless we vaccinate everyone, we are creating conditions for more and more variants to emerge. Between this, and Covid now being found widely in deer (and other mammals), Covid is here to stay and the best we can hope is for it to become a milder, seasonal illness managed with vaccines and antivirals.

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Why Top Virologist Trevor Bedford @trvrb Is Concerned About Omicron

https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/95948

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Some experts suggest Omicron variant may have evolved in an animal host (others, from an immunocompromised individual)

https://statnews.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f8609630ae206654824f897b6&id=8d9b8ef5a1&e=f4c6ea30a0

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Dutch officials say pre-flight testing regardless of vaccine status is needed, as 90% of the passengers from South Africa who tested positive had been vaccinated. (Reuters)

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Omicron Variant May Circumvent COVID-19 Antibody Cocktails

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Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent lack of testing. It needs to be free and readily available.

Companies including Thermo Fisher Scientific, Abbott, Qiagen, Cue Health and Co-Diagnostics have stated that their PCR tests currently on the market for COVID-19 are not affected by the new Omicron strain.

US also does relatively little genotypic testing =>

‘Just stupid stuff’: Logistics and lack of testing stymied finding the Omicron variant in the U.S.

Sequencing itself can be as fast as a 24- to 48-hour turnaround. It’s the logistics of moving samples around that’s the real bottleneck.

https://statnews.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f8609630ae206654824f897b6&id=a2e19eb0fe&e=f4c6ea30a0 ~ ~ ~

 

Drugs and Vaccines:

States Didn’t Follow CDC Recs to Prioritize COVID Vaccine for Cancer Patients

https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/rsna/95969?

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COVID-19 boosters are safe and increase immunity when given after two doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer, trial shows

Six different COVID-19 boosters are safe and provoke strong immune responses in people who have previously received a two-dose course of ChAdOx1-nCov19 (Oxford-AstraZeneca [ChAd]) or BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech [BNT]), according to the first randomised trial of boosters given after two doses of either vaccine, published in The Lancet.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-covid-boosters-safe-immunity-doses.html?

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Researchers carry out the first head-to-head comparison of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

In the first head-to-head comparison of the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, researchers examined the electronic health records of veterans who had received each vaccine. Both vaccines were highly effective in preventing COVID-19 outcomes such as documented infection, hospitalization, and death.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-head-to-head-comparison-pfizer-moderna-vaccines.html?

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Delaying second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine produces stronger immune response

The first peer-reviewed study in North America examining the timing between the first and second doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines shows that a longer dose interval leads to a stronger immune response. The study is funded by the Government of Canada through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF).

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-dose-mrna-covid-vaccine-stronger.html?

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Despite increased demand for COVID vaccine boosters in recent weeks, almost 20% of vaccinated adults say they “probably” or “definitely” won’t get a booster.

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Unvaccinated white evangelicals appear immune to pro-vaccine messaging

White evangelical Christians have resisted getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States. A new study by Yale researchers provides evidence that persuading these vaccine holdouts to get their shots has only gotten more difficult.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-unvaccinated-white-evangelicals-immune-pro-vaccine.html?

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FDA Advisory Committee approves Molnupiravir by 13-10.  Plaxovid looks like a better antiviral.

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Devices:

Study shows the maximum risks of COVID infection with and without masks

Three meters are not enough to ensure protection. Even at that distance, it takes less than five minutes for an unvaccinated person standing in the breath of a person with COVID-19 to become infected with almost 100 percent certainty. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if both are wearing well-fitting medical or, even better, FFP2 masks, the risk drops dramatically. In a comprehensive study, a team from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation in Göttingen has investigated to what extent masks protect under which wearing conditions. In the process, the researchers determined the maximum risk of infection for numerous situations and considered several factors that have not been included in similar studies to date.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-maximum-covid-infection-masks.html?

Epidemiology/Infection control:

Initial COVID-19 more likely to lead to poor outcomes than reinfection

SARS-CoV-2 reinfections in Qatar were 90% less likely than primary infections to lead to hospitalization or death, finds a research letter last week in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

A team led by Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar researchers compared primary COVID-19 cases from March through June 2020 with reinfections from January through April 2021, a wave fueled by the Alpha (B117) and Beta (B1351) variants but before the emergence of Delta (B1617.2). After the first pandemic wave, 40% of the population had measurable antibodies against the coronavirus.

The team used data on 353,326 Qataris with primary infection or reinfection to investigate the risk of severe disease leading to hospitalization, critical disease leading to admission to an intensive care unit, and fatal disease.

Reinfected patients had 90% lower odds of hospitalization or death than those at primary infection. Four reinfections were severe enough to lead to hospitalization, but all ended in recovery.

Nov 24 NEJM research letter

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/11/news-scan-nov-29-2021

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Large international study reveals spectrum of COVID-19 brain complications

by Radiological Society of North America  NOVEMBER 29, 2021

The largest multi-institutional international study to date on brain complications of COVID-19 has found that approximately one in 100 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 will likely develop complications of the central nervous system. These can include stroke, hemorrhage, and other potentially fatal complications. The study is being presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-large-international-reveals-spectrum-covid-.html

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COVID-19 linked to heart inflammation in college athletes

A small but significant percentage of college athletes with COVID-19 develop myocarditis, a potentially dangerous inflammation of the heart muscle, that can only be seen on cardiac MRI, according to a study being presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Myocarditis, which typically occurs as a result of a bacterial or viral infection, can affect the heart’s rhythm and ability to pump and often leaves behind lasting damage in the form of scarring to the heart muscle. It has been linked to as many as 20% of sudden deaths in young athletes. The COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns over an increased incidence of the condition in student-athletes.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-covid-linked-heart-inflammation-college.html

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https://t.co/VzprWI9PlX

Tips, general reading for public:

StayAtHome

Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

Politics:

Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health care workers nationwide

A federal judge in Louisiana issued a nationwide preliminary injunction Tuesday against President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Judge Terry A. Doughty in the U.S. District Court Western District of Louisiana ruled in favor of a request from Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to block an emergency regulation issued Nov. 4 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that required the COVID shot for nearly every full-time employee, part-time employee, volunteer, and contractor working at a wide range of healthcare facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicaid funding.

Louisiana was joined in the lawsuit by attorneys general in 13 other states.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/federal-judge-blocks-biden-vaccine-mandate-for-health-care-workers-nationwide/ar-AARjCWT?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531

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Security theater

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Feel good du jour:

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This is such a beautiful video:

Comic relief:

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Perspective/Poem

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Bits of beauty:

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